The D4 + OK GO + Caesers
Electric Ballroom, Camden, London - April 6 2003
Concorde II, Brighton – April 8 2003


I have an important professional exam in less than two weeks, with a gruelling interview for a time-consuming customer services gradation two days later. I have so much on at work I'm spending more time in the office than anywhere else. My garden is a mess, I'm too tired to go to the gym, and if I had a dog, it would have died. Oh yeah, and after years of waiting for him, George Thorogood has cancelled his gig this Friday. Throw me a three-chord, 12-bar blues and I'll write you enough lyrics for the middle-class, middle-age white suburban bachelor blues to run to a triple album. Obviously, with all this shit going down, I need to sit here and write a gig review.

Actually I do, because one of the few islands of delight in this ocean of shite has been the welcome return of The D4 to these sunny shores. I caught up with them twice on their latest sojourn, as the headline element of a tri-continent, three band tour that "sponned all over the wazzocks" (copyright Motorhead, Another Perfect Day album) of this fair isle a couple of weeks back.

My first exposure to The D4 was as support to Radio Birdman at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne last May. At the time I was impressed by their energy (and their tunes, damnit, they do have choons!), but felt their stagecraft was a little clichéd. I believe my VB-enhanced comment to The Barman was "Hmm, this is EVERY move from Rock’n’Roll Stage Moves 101, isn’t it?" Still, I was impressed enough to see them back in dear old Blighty in our summer, and then three times in December, twice supporting the mighty Birdman,and once on the same bill (but different stage) at Homebake. I think it was Canberra on December 6 that really made a believer out of me. Their fire and fervour that night really impressed me (and for an old fart like me, the fact that Dion chucked a Pretty Things riff – "Midnight To Six Man" – into the soundcheck didn’t hurt!). Their set in the sunshine of Sydney at Homebake the next day was a fine display too.

So, when I saw they were back in old Albion again, I signed up for the couple of gigs that were reachable. (Yup, 400 words in, I might get round to reviewing the gigs). The Electric Ballroom is a semi-legendary punk venue that holds around 600, whereas Concorde II is a newi-sh venue down on the seafront in Brighton that probably holds around 300 or so.

The London gig was reachable by train, and one I managed to tempt a London mate, Pete, along to – he’s more of a metal fan, but he's broad-minded, musically. Brighton was a 90-mile drive, so it had the advantage that I was rather more sober.

Pete and I arrived a little late for the London gig, so only caught the last song and a half of The Caesers, who were impressive, but unfortunately rather overshadowed by our delight at finding real pinball machines in the bar area (Pete and I are of an age to have been enthusiastic pinball players in our youth, and disappointed that you hardly ever see a pinball machine round here anymore).
We moved into mid-floor to watch the second band, OK GO, from Chicago. They were surprisingly poppy for this bill, but had enough punky edges to keep them interesting. There were several changes as band members occasionally changed instruments between numbers, usually to more simplistic effect. (Which is a polite way of saying the bassist isn’t going to get much work as a session keyboardist, and neither is the guy who spent most numbers playing percussion and dancing).

The D4 hit the stage after a brief break, and played for about an hour, including encore, to an appreciative crowd. Opening with a new number ("Nobody Talks To The Law (Round Here)", at a guess), they alternated old (?) favourites with new numbers, as well as the occasional cover that D4 followers are familiar with. I counted 4 new numbers in the set, and was glad to see "Pirate Love" returned to the set as the encore. I lost Pete towards the end of the evening, but he e-mailed me the next day to say he'd been very impressed and had promptly purchased some D4 stuff online.

Saturday night and I drove down to Brighton, in plenty of time to all the bands this time. I'd noticed when I booked my ticket for this gig that it was an all-ages show, and arriving early I felt like I'd crashed the school disco, there were hordes (OK, scores) of kids, some of them looking as young as 10. My initial reaction of "bloody kids" (miserable old curmudgeon that I am) soon turned to pleasure that there were enough of the younger generation who were willing to come and see real people play real instruments with real passion, rather than glossy overproduced pretty boybands/girlbands "singing" modern pap by numbers or offensively anodyne versions of classics of yesteryear. (And thankfully, some more "old" people turned up as well). I also managed to snatch a quick word with

The D4’s Jimmy (conversation facilitated by the fact that we were both wearing the same T-shirts from the pre-Xmas Birdman tour, which probably helped in jogging his memory as to why this old fat bloke looked vaguely familiar) and give him some photos of them at Canberra and Homebake. He thought the tour was going really well.

Obviously mindful of the tender age of the audience, The Caesers opend up with a song starting "I wanna smoke crack, 'cos I know you’re never coming back, I wanna shoot speedballs, bang my head against the wall, I wanna sniff glue, 'cos I'll never get over you". The Caesaers are Swedish (and apparently called Caeser's Palace at home, a name that doesn't apparently travel because of copyright problems, and were delightfully impressive. Two guitars, bass, drums and organ, they struck me as somewhere between early Stranglers and late '60s LA punk psychters The Seeds. I suggest checking out some sounds on www.the-raft.com (click on Artists & Labels and then on Caesers). I'll certainly be investing in their debut UK album next month.

OK GO came on next and did their thing, and seemed more engaging to me second time around. Some of their stuff still seems annoyingly quirky for the sake of it, in some sort of deliberate attempt to be "wacky" or off the wall. It's the sort of "otherness" that caused me an underlying irritation with the B-52s and Camper Van Beethoven and undermined their oeuvre in my opinion, but which other people really loved, a sort of college kids being smart for the sake of it. Check out the samples at www.okgo.net for yourself, because this jury is rather hung at the moment, although erring on the favourable side.

And so to the main event of the evening, the D4. Warming the crowd up with AC/DC's "It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock’n’Roll)" over the PA, they came on to warm applause and ripped into the new song I've dubbed "Nobody Talks To The Law ('Round Here)", a brooding, menacing song which reminds me of the Pink Fairies/Motorhead's" City Kids". They then ripped through "Get Loose" before another new song, a fast rocker called something like "Ain't Nowhere To Go", which led straight into "Come On!" Again, the squeal of feedback barely had time to die away before they were off into "Running On Empty". Pausing for breath, Jimmy thanked everybody who'd been to their show in Brighton on the last tour, and dedicated "Heartbreaker" to them. Maybe it’s masochistic memories of having been jerked around in the past by a young lady, but I really love this song; the bitter passion, Dion's impassioned screaming, the tension and dynamics, it's one of my favourite songs of the past couple of years. This was slightly abbreviated and restrained compared to the absolutely belting version I saw them do in Canberra, but still impressive. However, restrained was not a word you'd use to describe "Invader Ace" which they bulldozed through next, before treating us to a really tight and hard version of the radio-unfriendly "Rock’n’Roll Motherfucker". A third new song followed, which sounded like either "New Old Blues" or "U-Haul Blues", a slow burner (for them anyway) of a song about another relationship going south. They then tore through a couple of established covers in "North Shore Bitch" and a pleasingly extended and jamming "John Rock", separated by a rare pause for breath whilst Jimmy regaled us with tales of how Beaver had been to see his first ever football game that day (Brighton beat Rotherham 2-0, if you're interested).

Time to run through "Party" and stretch out a version of the latest UK single "Ladies Man" and the set was over. Prolonged applause bought them back for an encore of "Pirate Love", but the curfew was upon us (the venue hosts some nightclub afterwards, so they were keen to chuck us out sharpish) and after 50 or so minutes they were gone for good, or at least for the evening. In London, without the hassle of a strictly-enforced finish time they played about an hour, and I'm sure they played four new songs there. No matter, the energy they exuded even in the shorter Brighton set was enough to really get the adrenaline pumping. They still bound around the stage, Dion still crowd surfs (particularly impressive at Brighton, with all the little people in the audience I half-expected him to get dropped on his arse) and they still really go for it with a passion and commitment that's all too rare these days.

And all this touring has really sharpened them up and the new songs are pretty good too; right now this is probably one of the best bands going for a high-octane burst of honest rock 'n' roll. I strongly suggest you catch them next time they blast through your burgh. - Adrian Johnson

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